According to Thomas Schultz, "Not one recognized religious leader, not Moses, Paul, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc. have ever claimed to be God; that is, with the exception of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only religious leader who has ever claimed to be deity and the only individual ever who has convinced a great portion of the world He is God" (emphasis mine). The question arises, did Jesus ever claim to be God? The most common names He used of Himself were as follows: the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Son of David. Skeptics have argued for centuries that the term "son of" indicated a lower position. But when Jesus claimed to be the "Son of Man," what was He really claiming? In Mark 14:61-62 we read, "...the high priest asked Him, 'Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus, 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Jesus directly claimed to be the "Son of Man," so was this not a claim to be a human being, a prophet perhaps, and nothing more? (Photo credit: Jim Caviezel in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ")
Look at the reaction of Caiaphas, the high priest, in verses 63-64, "The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need more witnesses?' he asked. You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as worthy of death" (emphasis mine). Tearing your clothes was an indication that you were enraged by something or someone, as seen throughout Scripture. Also, consider for a moment: why would they condemn Jesus and consider it blasphemy to have Jesus call Himself a mere human being? Logic dictates that this was not the case, but that something else was amiss in the priest's mind. In the context of the first century AD, the Jews were expecting their Messiah, whom they believed would come and free them from the Roman occupation, leading a rebellion. But Jesus did not come to do this, but to die for the sins of humanity, so that we would, through Him, have a way to enter into Heaven.
Jesus is referred to eighty-eight times in the New Testament as the "Son of Man." The first century context provides that the Jews were familiar with many Messianic prophecies, particularly the one found in Daniel 7:13-14 which records, "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every tongue worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting kingdom that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (emphasis mine). Recall that Jesus claimed to be the "Son of Man... coming on the clouds of heaven."
While it is true that the word "bar enash' used for "Son of Man" can also be rendered as "human being," as is the case of Ezekiel, used ninety-three times, we need to examine the points of Daniel 7:13-14 to determine whether the text was referring to deity, or human being:
- The Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven.
- The Son of Man is given authority, glory, and sovereign power. The dictionary defines sovereign as, "a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler."
- All nations and people of every tongue (language) worship Him. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Throughout the Hebrew Bible, we are commanded to worship God only. Yet this "Son of Man" is also given worship.
- The Son of Man will have an everlasting dominion that will not pass away.
- The Son of Man's kingdom will never be destroyed.
The text clearly refers to the Messiah, promised to the world from the very beginning (Genesis 3:15), the "seed" who would put an end the kingdom of Satan, the scepter that would not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10), the prophet who was to come (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), the one promised to David (1st Samuel 7:12-16), the one referred to as "Lord" in Psalm 110, "The Lord says to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make you enemies a footstool for your feet." Who is this "Son of Man?" Jesus is the "Son of Man," and clearly claimed to be Him. Since the Son of Man appears to be eternal, and receives worship, we can conclude that this Son of Man has to be equal with the Father. Jesus claimed not only to be the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, but claimed He would sit at the right hand of God, clearly claiming Lordship seen in Psalm 110.
Indeed, the Father says in Hebrews 1:8, "But about the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.'" It is clear that those around Jesus claimed He was God. The Johannine tradition identifies Jesus as the Word of God, who is God (John 1:1-4, 14). Colossians 1 identifies Christ as Creator, and Philippians 2:6 called Jesus in "very nature God," and calls him equal to God, the Father. Hebrews 1:3 identifies Jesus as, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being...", which was in answer to the claim that Jesus was equal to the angels, as currently taught by Jehovah's Witnesses that Jesus was once Michael the Archangel, yet the author of Hebrews establishes in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is God, and was never an angel. St. Paul identifies Jesus in Titus 2:13 as, "our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," and Thomas, upon seeing the risen Christ, declares, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).
Pliny the Younger, the Governor of Bithnyia in Asia Minor in 112 AD, wrote to the Roman emperor Trajan inquiring as to how he ought to treat Christians, and affirmed that "they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god..." Evidently, those around Jesus considered Him to be Lord and God, as did the early Christians, with historical attestation by Pliny the Younger to demonstrate this. Jesus considered Himself to be the Son of Man, a direct claim to deity, to Lordship, a claim to be God. But He also claimed to be the Son of God. Would this indicate that He was not truly God?
Understand that when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, He was not saying that God the Father came upon Mary, as Mormonism teaches, and had intimate relations with her. On the contrary, the angel Gabriel explained to Mary in the record from Dr. Luke, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Matthew 1:20 conveys, "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." It is not difficult to believe in the virgin birth, indeed, it is actually achievable by modern science through insemination.
The claim to be the Son of God, understood in the first century, was to be "of the same nature as God." Jesus was not claiming to be the biological Son of God, but in very nature, God, as seen in Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1. "Another example can be found in John 17:12 where Judas is described as the “son of perdition.” John 6:71 tells us that Judas was the son of Simon. What does John 17:12 mean by describing Judas as the “son of perdition”? The word perdition means “destruction, ruin, waste.” Judas was not the literal son of “ruin, destruction, and waste,” but those things were the identity of Judas' life. Judas was a manifestation of perdition. In this same way, Jesus is the Son of God. The Son of God is God. Jesus is God made manifest (John 1:1, 14)."
Yet Jesus also claimed to be the Son of David, could this indicate a claim to not be God? Seventeen times in Scripture, Jesus is identified as the Son of David. This is actually a fulfillment of the promise to David found in 1st Samuel 7, to promise that the Messiah would be descended from the line of King David. The genealogies found in Matthew 1 (Joseph's lineage, which Jesus claimed with Joseph as his legal, not biological father), and Luke 3 (Mary's lineage) establish that Jesus was descended from David - as well as Adam and Eve, also fulfilling the promise of the seed in Genesis 3:15 and the seed promised to Abraham.
|From Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ (2004)|
Clearly, Jesus was claiming to be the promised Messiah, and God Himself, by the usage of "Son of Man," "Son of God," and "Son of David." But what of His other sayings? Did He at any point contradict by claiming not to be God? Let us examine some of the direct claims of Jesus. Jesus uses the phrase "Verily, Verily, I say unto you," or "Truly I tell you," instead of what we find in the Hebrew Bible the phrase used by prophets, "Thus saith the Lord." Jesus spoke and taught in His own name, and the name of the Father. In Matthew 1:23, Jesus is identified as "Immanuel," which means, "God with us."
When Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, He was tested by Satan. Jesus never yielded to temptation and did not give in, but instead quoted Scripture. In Matthew 4:7 we read, "Jesus answered [Satan], 'It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Jesus appears to be implying that by His testing by Satan, Satan was testing God. Jesus is claiming to be God. Some claim that Jesus is indicating via Matthew 24:36 that He is not God, due to limited knowledge. The text reads, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." First, understand that some ancient manuscripts do not have "nor the Son." Second, Philippians 2 makes clear that Jesus "emptied himself" when he took on human form, essentially limiting some of His knowledge while He was on the Earth. This is demonstrated elsewhere in the Gospels as well.
What about the cry of Jesus on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Here, Jesus was not saying that He is not God, but two things were happening: 1) for the first time in all of eternity, the Father placed all of humanity's past, present, and future sins on Jesus and had to turn away from Him. This disconnection was difficult for Jesus - it was something He had never experienced, and 2) Jesus was actually quoting Psalm 22:1, a Psalm of David, which describes in detail the crucifixion scene, and is also quoted in the Gospels. Psalm 22 describes the ruptured heart Jesus had at death (Psalm 22:14), the pierced hands and feet (Psalm 22:16), those who cast lots for his garments (Psalm 22:18), along with other details. When Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 on the cross, He was actually citing and fulfilling the Psalm which speaks of His crucifixion, written around 1000 years before His death by King David.
Jesus also received and accepted worship. The leper "adored Him..." (Matthew 8:2), the man who was born blind, after being healed "falls down and adores Him" (John 9:35-39), the disciples as well (Matthew 14:33), Thomas worshiped Him as Lord and God (John 20:27-29), as did others. Also note that in Acts 7:59 we read, "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit.'" The Gospel of Mark records several affirmations by Jesus as well. In Mark 6:19 Jesus says, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." The word "Lord" in Greek is "kurios," which is indicative of God, in most cases. Peter also declared Jesus to be "our God and Savior Jesus Christ" in 2nd Peter 1:1.
Jesus also "declared all foods clean" in Mark 7:19, something only God could truly do. This is echoed by Acts 10:9-23 and Acts 11:1-18. Mark 2:5 and Luke 7:48 clearly demonstrate that Jesus, with authority, forgave sins. In Mark 2:7 the scribes say, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" (emphasis mine). In Matthew 9:5-6, Jesus forgives a paralytic of his sins. According to the Law of Moses, only God could forgive sins, yet Jesus utilized this divine authority and forgave sins, as if He was God. Also, Jesus claimed, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus did not claim to know "the way," as if it was a teaching he had learned from something such as Buddhism (or buddha-dharma), but He claimed to be "THE WAY," thus the reason early Christianity was known as "The Way" (see, for example, Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
In Luke 8:39 we read, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." It is significant in that, compared to Mark 6:19, the word used of God is the Greek "theos," which is indicative, clearly, as a name of God, and used of Christ. Luke 6:5 also records, "Then Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'" This is a clear claim to deity, as only God is Lord of the Sabbath. If anything, St. John wrote his Gospel with the intention of putting an end to the Gnostics claiming that Jesus was not God. In the 80's/90's BC, St. John wrote as answer to those claims, utilizing the information and events that had not been written in Mark, Matthew, or Dr. Luke's records, which had by that point been circulated. It was St. John's intention to not only attest to the historicity of Jesus, the events in His life and provide information on events not yet recorded, but also to establish once and for all the deity of Christ, just as Jesus Himself had claimed.
In previous entries, we have mentioned the "angel of the Lord," or rather, "messenger of the Lord" who appears all throughout the Hebrew Bible - to Hagar in the desert, to Moses in the burning bush who identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as the claim "I AM" (Exodus 3), He appeared to Gideon, as well as to Manoah and his wife - the parents of Samson - and was identified as God as well, among other appearances. Who is this angel of the Lord? Although you can investigate further by reading the entry found in the "recommended entries" section of this article, consider the words of John 1:18, "No one has ever seen God, but the Son... has made him known." God the Father establishes to Moses in Exodus 33:19-23 that He cannot be seen face to face, and since God the Spirit is just that - Spirit, we are left with God the Son of the Trinity - who is Jesus.
This is attested to throughout the New Testament, including in Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1, but also by the direct claims of Jesus in John 8:58, "Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM!" Here, and in other places, Jesus calls Himself "I AM," the name used of God in Exodus 3. Oddly enough, this Angel of the Lord also identifies Himself in Exodus 3 as "I AM," and many believe that this messenger of the Lord was actually Jesus, pre-incarnate. The New Testament certainly includes for this possibility. This is not to say that Jesus was ever an angel in the sense of the winged messenger depicted in artwork, nor Michael the archangel, but that Jesus was the messenger of the Lord, and was at the same time, "I AM," or, "God" (cf. John 13:19). Indeed, Jesus says to the Father in John 18:5, "glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."
Jesus claims in John 13:13, "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." Luke 6:46 conveys, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?" Recall that the Greek word used of Lord is "kurios," which is indicative of a name for God. In John 14:8-12 we read, "Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.'"
We can clearly see that Jesus was claiming to be equal to God, as God the Son, one-third of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity can be likened unto a pyramid: while it is still one pyramid, it has three sides. Likewise, while God is one, He is three: Father, Spirit, Jesus (Son). Jesus says to the Father in John 17:21, "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." If we had nothing else, in one sweeping statement, Jesus claims equality with the Father, establishing Jesus as God, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30, emphasis mine). In response we read, "Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any good work,' they replied, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God'" (John 10:31-33, emphasis mine).
From the examination, we can rightly conclude that Jesus truly claimed to be God, and, as seen in other entries, established His deity through his resurrection from the dead.
 Schultz, Thomas. The Doctrine of the Person of Christ with an Emphasis upon the Hypostatic Union. Unpublished dissertation. Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1962.
 "sovereign." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 11 Jul. 2011.
 Pliny the Younger. Epistles X.96.
 "What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 11 Jul 2011.
 "What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 11 Jul 2011.